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Finns Build a Virtual Helsinki 81

Posted by Roblimo
from the moving-directly-into-the-postwired-age dept.
Anonymous Coward writes "Having already pioneered the mobile phone-operated vending machine, those well-wired Finns are constructing a virtual Helsinki, heavily integrated with the real one (Article from The Guardian). Broadband for all and techno-houses à la Gates... track your pizza delivery online, netcast from public booths, and keep tabs on your kids via their mobile phones. Futuristic techo-democracy with just a hint of 1984. It seems that the future will be... fun."
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Finns Build a Virtual Helsinki

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  • Maybe it's just because I work at a large computer company, or maybe it's just because I'm really into this computer thing, but the difference between this "virtual Helsinki" and the tech buzzing around me every day seems more like the difference between Hard Rock and New Wave music: mostly one of aesthetics(?). I'll admit that the Finns seem more into the smaller stuff than we are here in the US (maybe it's those legacy beige boxes), but I don't think their tech is that much more advanced. It's just not as anchored to the desktop as ours is.
    Maybe I have no room to talk because I don't own a handheld device yet (besides my Toshiba laptop).
  • if you by 'official' mean written language, it is used only in TV and by politicians

    That's pretty much what I meant. My Finnish tutor used to always tell us that written Finnish did not make good spoken Finnish. She quite often gave us examples of the spoken language that didn't conform to the grammar rules - slang I suppose.

    I even have a `Slangisanasto' at home that I bought in Kuopio. It contains loads of great tranlations of English and American slang into Finnish, although whether it's any use or not is another matter entirely!


    Chris Wareham
  • Saw this piece of neatness and the first witty thing I could think was "Hey, wow, maybe now I could virtually attend the Assembly demo competition some year." :)
    ---
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • Funnily enough, the Finns aren't a Scandinavian people, or inherently blond haired. Their origin is shrouded in mystery, but they basically settled in Finland after the great migration of the tribes. One bunch of Finno-Ugrian people headed West from the Urals, and became the Hungarians. Another big bunch headed North until they hit the Gulf of Finland. Some stayed South of where St. Petersburg now stands and became Estonians (Virolainen). The remainder headed further North, met the Lapps and became Finns (Suomalainen) or Karelians.

    It doesn't actually work quite like that. Our language is indeed related to small finno-ugric islands in a sea of slavic languages, but the finnish gene base is pretty much totally west european. The biggest mystery about the finns is why an overwhelming number of western settlers ended up speaking the language they are now speaking (especially since Finland spent a good few hundered years under swedish rule and the use of the swedish language was strongly incouraged). Personally I blame it on the inherent superiority of our language :-)

    The only people with some sort of finno-ugric descent in scandinavia are apparantly the saame (or the lapps as we germanic oppressors call them) and nobody understands anything about them either. Go figure.

  • I heard about this project a few years ago at the Camden Conference [camcon.org]. Risto Linturi [camcon.org] gave a fairly in depth speech about their plan [evitech.fi].

    The funniest thing he said, and he is a strangly funny man, "Thanks to free Microsoft technology, I have been able to automate my entire home. Unfortunatly, I now need an expensive Microsoft firewall to keep the hackers (reads crackers) from turning my lights on and off."

  • I even have a `Slangisanasto' at home that I bought in Kuopio. It contains loads of great tranlations of English and American slang into Finnish

    Now that's something I'd like to see =) Especially if it tries to translate it into the eastern dialects...

    • Then you could be virtually surrounded by virtual Quake lamers
    But that wouldn't be any different than normal... :)
    ---
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • I think I dislike the idea of how people use all this information they've been busy tracking. I can imagine people yelling at their pizza delivery guy because they saw their call was #3 in the queue, but after tracking the guy's route, they found he delivered the food out of order. Anyone who has worked any sort of customer service will likely recognize the behavior.
    The concept is a fun idea, but there comes a point in which too much information becomes too much.
    Time to fire up gnuplot...I've been keeping track of how often I've been checking slashdot daily.
    In the meantime, check out the California Highway Patrol dispatch page. [ca.gov]
  • What makes it so extraordinary that Finland is so advanced is that it is also so remote and isolationist (not to mention freaking cold) and has had serious economic problems for several years.

    Tokyo, New York, Caracas all have amazing technology, but Finland is literally backwoods and is majorly independent of most interaction with global markets except maybe for vodka and glassware.

    It is awesome that such a small, remote country can be as wired as it is, and may indicate the direction other leading cities will take. Look what the Finns have done with what they have had to work with ... so far.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Nationalism is a load of crap in regards to this country versus that. It's all global now anyway. Advances in Technology come primarily via groups of like minded people working together across the globe for some common purpose. The geography doesn't really matter that much these days. Sure the economic nature of the country your working in can slow down your progress but in general if its a westernised country where the project/research is being held. It matters very little whether the people are Finish/American/Euro's/Asian or Plutonians. What matters is the expertise and/or group expertise bringing forth new technology/ or in the case of the Finish a whole new online world. JLL (Nationalism no thanks ... )
  • I think the key issue here is the time of deployment and general acceptance. The level of technology might not be that different, but the time it takes to become a household tool is a lot faster.

    For mobile systems, there are a few reasons why this is true. The first has to be Nokia who is working closely with local operators to bring out new technology early. Imagine a nationwide test lab! The second can be traced back to the early years of the GSM system: from the very beginning we had two nationwide operators competing furiously. And before GSM, the nation was already covered with the NMT-network...

    As to the Orwellian nightmares, at least for the time being, we can switch these toys off and enjoy the forests and lakes that cover most of the land araa ;)
  • Just a little reminder...

    Out of the six top contries in information tech 4 are Scandinavian: Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. (The US and Singapore being the other two)

    Wish i could back this up with a link, but i forgot where i got it from.
  • Saw this piece of neatness and the first witty thing I could think was "Hey, wow, maybe now I could virtually attend the Assembly demo competition some year." :)

    Then you could be virtually surrounded by virtual Quake lamers
  • Just a little nitpick here but I'm just wondering.. the article mentions 25 FIM and describes it as the price for a beer, making it sound like not too much..

    When I went to Finland from Australia a while back I was NOT impressed with the prices. 25 FIM works out to more than 8 AU dollars (more than 5 US) and that is NOT a good price for a beer :-)

    On average everything I've seen, from mcdonalds meals to busfares and drinks in the pub are easily 3 times the price of those things in some other places in Europe and especially Australia.

    The average income (when converted to AU dollars) didn't seem to be much higher than the Australian (if at all), and I guess that's why in Finland in general both parents in a family work, whereas in Australia and other places in Europe it's usually one of the parents having the dayjob.

    So how do the Finnish cope with that? Work hard? :-) And what kind of consqequences (if any) would it have for a country that wants to deploy a virtual capital (other than having a LOT of tax money coming in :)

    That aside, Finland is a gorgeous place and I can't wait to go back :)
  • The people are friendly to foreigners

    Duh, I don't believe you... I've been living in Helsinki for 15 months now, and if there's one thing finns don't like (I'm making a generality here, I know) it's foreigners. I even lost my job because some redneck businessman in the company though having a foreigner around was a threat. And they also didn't like speaking English.

    I'm no Russian or Estonian (their usual scapegoats), but still I'm being insulted constantly, especially in governmental institutions on behalf I'm a foreigner and should get back to my country ASAP. You call it friendly?

    I don't know where you've spent your time in Finland, really. Maybe in Kuopio, where people are really cool, but definitely not in Helsinki.

    I find finns being extremely closed-minded and isolationist, not talking about their terrible tendency to racism. Looking different, speaking different, thinking different condemns you immediately to most finns' eyes. Like in Sweden, there's a culture of uniformity here that dumbs people from childhood. Be a sheep is their motto. No wonder Apple's campaign on "think different" had no impact here.

    Really, if anyone's thinking about moving here, I'd tell that person to think twice... Oh, salaries are a joke here, combined with super-high taxes. Wanna buy a car? Pay 130% tax on it. everything else? Minimum 22% Goods & Services tax. Service, in general, is lousy and salespersons would easily insult you if you *dare* complaining about anything, even politely.

    Finn's behaviour towards foreigners could be explained by 700 years of Swedish domination, followed by 100 years of Russian colonialism. I don't mind if people are being patriotic to some extent, but to *that* point, it's critical...

    Good reasons for me to move back to Switzerland. At least there's good income there and people don't spit at you when you're different.

    My 0.02 pennia.
  • I just worry that the US Congress worried about North Americans who live South of Canada (Politically Correctness) having to much Freedom, and the politicians trying even harder to close the internet borders by FM (F-Magic) laws creating US postal charges on each email, delivering corporate welfare to the US telcom services indutry with local and LD internet access charges, ... and more things to keep US from having to much free-speech, ....

    Politicains want to stay in control of the society and I think many US politicians fear the coming cultural changes. In the US, I expect some politically PTB crack-down via new taxes, fees, ... economics, ... as the internet reaches more and more American homes and citizens (make it expensive for the poor folks to use and benift) politicians (very naturally) will want to slow the progress.

    I may have to retire to Canada or Mexico {;>
  • Well, sorry to shatter your illusion about Finland's backwaterness in information tech. As it was noted in the article we have an GSM (digital mobile phone) penetration of over 65% overall population and what this means is that most people under the age 65 has one or more mobile terminals at their disposal. Also internet access in more common here than anywhere else (excluding the US nowadays). Virtually most of our banking has been availabel/used via the net/BBS's for atleast 5 years for the people and for tens of years for corporate customers. E-commerce has been slow to come up in our market, but that has changed in the past 5-10 months quite radically. These "internet kiosks" are beeing deployed at the moment for the benefit of people, who can't afford to buy their own computers & leased lines and other people who just don't want to buy ones. most of these booths are built as public services and they cost either nothing or an token amount money e.g. 25 FIM = roughly $5 = one pint of real beer =). It's this public deployment that brings these new things into our society so that one day when I happen to need instant internet access on the bus from Helsinki to Espoo (next city 5 miles away) I'll just grab my cellphone/terminal (e.g. Nokia Communicator at the moment - WAP terminals in the near future (we have an WAP-network active we're just short of terminal equipment) - and someting else like UMTS-based multimedia phone/PDA's in 2002/3) and get cracking. It's not just Helsinki which is wired but more of the idea of the whole country beeing wired with wiredless access. I can use my cellphone just as well at home in Espoo as in the wilderness at my summer cottage out some 500km in the middle of nowhere. And what's more important I have access for the entire country with just one tehnology & operator -> no need for having different operator at different sides of the country as you have in the US. This was the way you got your CC's in the first place - there was a need in the corporate world for them, so the telco's made it happen 10 years ago. Then you came along 5 years later and CC's seemed to have existed forever. I'm not saying Finland is great in every instance, but we do have our good points from time to time. I do acknowledge that the US is by far the leader in computer technology in general, but you have the needed population on your home market to support companies as large as IBM, Intel and Compaq, where Finland with a mere 5 Million inhabitants can't support this size companies here. This is the reason finnish start-up's have to begin with a great idea and usually build the damn thing on their own before they can even think of getting any venture capital out of our over cautios banks & investors. And then they have to get themselves some fame and sales in Finland and before they even break even they have to engage in the horribly costly international markets to grow. There are very few success stories about finnish companies growing to international sizes, but some like Nokia, Datafellows (SSH, F-Prot Antivirus) and Okmetik (something like 20% of the worlds silicon circuits are refined here) have been able to do it. All these begun with an niché product that could be merketed overseas and eventually they grew to their current size. There is potential here in knowhow, but our culture seems to be of one that dislikes taking risks - both people and financial institutions. Another point is also the economical situation here - it was quite bad for a few years, but we've seen great growth for the past couple of years and atleast in the south of Finland the recession of our market can't be seen anymore. FYI: I recall, that we preceed the global recession wave by some 1-3 years all the time as our economy differs from Europes and the US's in some major ways I don't know much about. It's actually quite funny to see these negative reactions to articles about foreign accomplishments and the simple acceptance of hi-tech things beeing introduced as US findings and services as facts.
  • And they also didn't like speaking English.

    That's strange considering the amount of time and energy finns spend learning foreign languages. I'm not terribly gifted when it comes to learning stuff like that, and yet I know english well enough to get a job translating stuff into it, and swedish and german well enough to handle most situations.

    But you are correct about high levels of taxation. And it's easy to get paid well, but hard to get paid really well over here. It's all a part of the scandinavian way of doing things. Personally I prefer it to the American system, but luckily people are still able to choose between the two if one really isn't suitable for them (wonder why all the biochemists I know are moving to the USA :-). I like to be able to walk around any part of Helsinki at any time of the day without fear of being robbed by somebody desperate enough to use a gun.
  • Well, I'm a Melbournite and I can basically talk all the way from Melbourne to Sydney and most of the way to Brisbane. The Eastern Sea board is much more populated than the west, which is why most of the cells are over here.
  • Are we going to end up all wired up with everything around and spend all our time trying to keep track of everything that is hapenning around us rather than actually doing anything useful.


  • And maybe we can use our new pocket Hitchhikers Guide to access all these nifty new conveniences...

    Ender

    This .sig is under construction

  • This is just my humble opinion, but isn't this what all those crazy pundits have been saying for so long? You know - the stuff we usually just ignore and chock up with all the William Gibson cyber-blah? The world is seriously starting to move into what we used to call the "future". Stuff like VR and high-speed wireless connectivity are starting to become feasible (and almost affordable) technologies. Hey, isn't it cool to be the forefront of something? You can look back later and say, "Hey - I was there when it all started."
  • I've been waiting for the local grocery store to start delivery through its website. Sheesh. I don't want to walk a mile carrying a 24 pack of Mountain Dew.

    But seriously, is this a good thing? Rob seems to think it's almost 1984-esque. I can't say I think this is fair. This doesn't say anything about full screen messages from the Finnish leadership, computers equipped with cameras and voice recorders, or a new dictionary. All it is is a whole bunch of conveniences, bundled up to make Helsinki a damn nice place to live. As long as you don't have to speak the language.

    I've personally always liked this type of thing. I can check to see if I have mail, order food, videoconference, and run all sorts of errands without running at all. Is this going to eliminate human contact? Of course not! People aren't going to telecommute, and there really is nothing like holding a nice blonde Finn in your arms at night...

    Anyway.

    I would kill to have a Virtual Saint Paul, MN.. but only if Governor Jesse "The Mind" Ventura has little to say about it. :)

    Regards,
    -efisher
    ---
  • History has been taking place all along...we're just normally too busy doing our jobs to pay attention. I'm sure there are lots of slashdotters who remember the good ol' days of ARPAnet, when posting a message to netnews just meant that other people interested in the same thing would read your message and respond. Nowadays, your message will be sucked up into search engines and possibly read by thousands of people who were looking for something completely different...as well as by email address suckers that'll get your address onto a few hundred different spam lists. A wider audience indeed!

    The point I'm making, I guess, is that we've already seen dramatic evolution and growth in electronic communications, and not all of it has gone in directions the builders imagined or desired. People have been dreaming about 2-way broadband communications since long before Dick Tracy, and we'll just keep trying until we get it. Whether it'll be what's described in this article or not (I bet not) will be decided in the future.

    Stop and think about the progress you've seen -- heck, built -- in the last couple of years. Darn straight these are exciting times!

  • by Splat (9175)
    "I'll be the first in line to get the new cybernetic interface installed" .. Unfortunately, this stuff's never going to popup in America anytime soon. There's incredibly too much red tape to go through. It's hard enough to get a traffic light installed around here. The future is here, and whether you like it or not.. it's NOT in the USA.
  • I apologize if this questions seems just slightly off topic, but I couldn't resist:

    Why is it that whenever the government or a corporation tries to instate virtual communities with either tracking systems or any sort of personal information tracking, we all cry out "Big Brother" and the privacy advocates flip their lids. *BUT* when we see stories like this, we think that it's cool and we cheer it on?

    Perhaps more importantly, it seems that for some geeks, the more they learn about how easy it is to have their personal information leaked onto the internet, they cringe, while at the same time we have geeks who can't wait to get their entire lives out there in plain site by filling their homes with webcams and wiring their toaters to the net?

    Is the geek culture diverging or am I just looking at the extremes and missing the larger picture?
  • I would kill to have a Virtual Saint Paul, MN.. but only if Governor Jesse "The Mind" Ventura has little to say about it. :)

    But in Virtual Saint Paul, Norm Coleman would probably hire someone to hack in a new stadium, so even if he couldn't have it in the real world he'd have it online.

  • by konstant (63560) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @11:04AM (#1666288)
    And I'm sure that they will also have flying cars and household appliances that address you by your first name.

    "I would like a pizza"
    "I'm sorry. I can't do that Dave"

    The "evidence" that Helsinki is wired to the lower lip appears to be internet kiosks and Mr. Linturi's Super Duper Futuro Home. Yes, I'm cynical, but these are things we already have in abundance here in America: broadband booths at airports and rich people with expensive and largely useless toys installed in their bathrooms.

    Well deployed technology doesn't appear with a bang and a cloud of pyrotechnic fog. It slips seamlessly into your life. I don't think I can remember the first time I used a calling card at a telephone booth rather than 25 cents change. It just seemed to be there when I needed it. And that is the definition of a successful deployment.

    Look, everybody here likes cool tech news. We've been hearing about the world of the future for so long now that "in the year 2000" is a ridiculous cliche. I for one am pretty tired of it.

    -konstant
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @10:53AM (#1666289)
    Excuse me. "Low quality"? Practically every corner of the country is reachable with a phone. The lines are stable, and the audio quality about as good as you can get from a telephone. So how is it "low quality"? It isn't that the existing technologies are bad in Finland, it's that we (yeah, I'm a Finn ;) aim ever even higher. Americans should realize that they are not the first and foremost in every single aspect of civilization. Far from it...
  • by LHOOQtius_ov_Borg (73817) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @11:05AM (#1666290)
    Technological systems that benefit the public are very good, especially when the public can have a say in their operation. There are, of course, potential abuses, but it's up to each individual to decide what they will use a trackable system for. If you don't want the government (or advertising company dataminers) to know how much Pizza you're ordering, walk to the Pizza shop in person and pay cash...

    At this time, you still have that option... and we'll only lose such options if people choose to give them up en-masse... There are still alternatives, though they often involve more work (like leaving your home).

    The choice is in all our hands: total convenience and no privacy, or forgo some convenience and keep some of the old, inefficient, and difficult-to-monitor systems in place (there can be a balance, you can have some of both)...

  • by calibanDNS (32250) <brad_statonNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @11:08AM (#1666291)
    I don't think that it is so much that the Geek culture is diverging as it is that people are looking at geek culture for the first time and noticing that we're not just a bunch of pocket-protector-wearing freaks. Society is looking at the /.ers of the world and saying "Hey, they're the ones that make all of these cool things happen." and in the process we're getting more exposure and so people are noticing that there are different viewpoints in the geek culture just as there are in any culture. Not all geeks are privacy fanatics, not all are hardcore linux users, and not all are paranoid weirdos who live in their parents' basement watching reruns of Star Trek and playing D&D. Geek Culture isn't diverging; people are just starting to pay us enough attention to notice the divisions that have always been there.
  • What I'd be worried about isn't the government tracking people, but people tracking people, no more opportunities to "get away from it all" as it were.
    A friend of mine recieves 150 e-mails (Not spam, real e-mail) every day. Imagine getting that many phone calls over a twelve hour period. Thats one phone call every six minutes. I hope you have good time management skills.
    Furthermore, it seems like people in the US are wont to abuse their cell phones. Most people I know only use them for incoming emergency, and outgoing calls. I remember someone getting a 911 page because one of their friends wnated to go see a movie that evening. I think that the Finns are more willing to deal with connectivity because they have more tact.
    I don't have a cell phone, pager or answering machine. I don't really want any of them.
  • Just a quick update on the Finnish economy -- GDP's up to $120B, the balance of trade is positive (thanks to Nokia), and the amount of outstanding public debt has stopped increasing.

    That has little to do with your question, though. It seems to me that this thing is getting financed as a purely commercial venture, by the players on the local telecommunications market. Consider it a pilot lab with 1 million people. As far as the technical merits of the project go, though, I'm not holding my breath to see anything insanely great.

    Marko, Helsinki

  • "The house knows whenever a room is empty," he says, "so there is no reason to circulate the normal level of air, just minimal."

    Anyone else ever seen Shada? "You are dead. Dead people don't require oxygen. Shutting off air supply..."
  • You're right, of course. It's not like people *just* started inventing things. I guess I'm just thinking about it in the sense that this is really an information boom, unlike any we've seen in awhile. I mean, yeah, if you were around when the radio or television became a viable media you'd have gone through it before. The way I see it, the internet is really just a precursor to what will eventually be a pervasive, and mostly wireless, network all across the globe - that's pretty crazy if you think of the implications it can have.
  • >ridiculously low quality of the Finnish land-line phone network, there would never have been a need or market for the >adavnced cellular technology.

    What are you talking about? The land-line (or fixed-line) networks in Finland are and have always been among the best in the world. Have you ever been to Finland or used Finnish telecom networks?

  • Virtual Helsinki mentioned in the article can be found from Helsinki Telephone Corporation's Arenanet [arenanet.fi]
  • I've been waiting for the local grocery store to start delivery through its website. Sheesh. I don't want to walk a mile carrying a 24 pack of Mountain Dew.

    Clearly, what you need is a fat pipe from the grocery store to your house (possibly via a local exchange or hub). Why stick to the old 'sneakernet' method of transporting beverages when you can just download them over a direct link?

    Probably, an asymmetrical link would be best, since you won't want to upload Mountain Dew at the same speed as you drink it.

  • Work hard? Nah, not me ;-) Tax money is the answer, and even though most of the Finns seem to be holding a grudge against the high-tax policy, it seems to be the only way for tiny economies (like Scandinavian countries) to compete in the fields of modern technology (ie. using tax money to support high-tech startups and innovations). Besides that, high tax rate is generally a good thing, but we don't want to go into that conversation again, do we? ;-P

    I personally don't use alcohol, so the high price of beer doesn't bother me (and to be honest, I like the idea of taxing it (and gasoline) really hard). After those, everything here seems priced around the same level as in any other European countries I have lived in (or been to any longer periods of time). Rents and alike, for example, are much lower here than in the UK or Italy.

    High-tech is relatively cheap, network infastructure is fine, and as a geek you can make a pretty good living, plus the environment in Scandinavia is still in decent condition when compared to fellow industrial countries, so the most important issues are OK.

    Oh, the weather sucks most of the time, though ;-)

    ______________

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you have any doubt, just check out the women in Stockholm.

  • I think you may have missed the point of my comment. I am question whether geek culture is diverging between those who are total privacy advocates, who want absolutely NO personal information about them available to anyone else, and at the other extreme you have the geeks who are throwing up webcams in their kitches so that the world will know when they run in for a midnight snack.

    I suppose the difference really comes down to a matter of freedom of choice.
  • Just how does one pay for something this big? Presumeably, the government will be picking up a large portion of the bill, but even still, the country's GDP is only around $110 billion... Considering that they already run an account deficit of roughly 25% annually, it's gonna be a tight budget...
    --
    Matt Singerman
  • It was interesting to read that a lot of the article related around the use of mobile phones, or cellphones as you Yanks call them. 65% of the population is a staggering number of people to own a mobile phone. In Australia, we're pretty in to mobile communications with over 95% of the population covered by some form of mobile network. That's not bad for a country with 1 square kilometre per capita.

    Also interesting to note was the way in which phones along with the 'net were changing society. I send roughly 100 emails a day, make about 10 phone calls and use snail mail only to send objects, not documents. After hours, I'd be lost without my mobile phone. To think that 10 years ago, we only had land lines, and email was *just* making it out of universities.

    Just to think that society used to take at least ageneration to change, and is now changing inside a decade is a sign that our entire planet and biosocieconomics are accelerating in nearly every little thing we do, at an exponential rate.

    And you thought keeping up with technology was difficult. Breakthroughs in all fields of Science are becoming more common. I doubt it will be long before what was science fiction 10 years ago, becomes a reality in 10 years time.
  • So here I am in the cradle of modern technology... Silicon Valley. And you know what I'm thinking? Forget the nice weather--How bad can the Arctic Circle be?

    When it comes to Internet technology, Helsinki is hotter than Moutain View, Palo Alto, etc.

    What's the rent like over there? ;-)

    Seriously, I wonder how wide the gap needs to get before domestic geeks start crowding on rafts and stowing away on planes to get to a more enlightened country--like, say, Finland?

    Remember the SAT's? Here's an anology....

    India :: United States
    United States :: Finland

    Is it really that far-fetched?
  • I can imagine people yelling at their pizza delivery guy because they saw their call was #3 in the queue, but after tracking the guy's route, they found he delivered the food out of order.

    Yeah, and just imagine what Uncle Enzo would say!
  • Americans should realize that they are not the first and foremost in every single aspect of civilization.

    We are first in capitalism. That's where we get the attitude ;)
  • Why is it that whenever the government or a corporation tries to instate virtual communities with either tracking systems or any sort of personal information tracking, we all cry out "Big Brother" and the privacy advocates flip their lids. *BUT* when we see stories like this, we think that it's cool and we cheer it on?

    It's all about who controls access to the information. If you carry a tracking device that belongs to you and is under your control, that's ok: you can consult the logs to find out who/what has requested information, define policy about how the information is to be given out, etc.

    If the automation belongs to another body, like the government or the phone company, that's not good: you can't be sure what it is doing with your information.

    The case where the collection of personal information depends on a larger infrastructure is an interesting one. Some people [greenend.org.uk] have put thought a certain amount of thought into this...

  • nothing like holding a nice blonde Finn in your arms at night

    Funnily enough, the Finns aren't a Scandinavian people, or inherently blond haired. Their origin is shrouded in mystery, but they basically settled in Finland after the great migration of the tribes. One bunch of Finno-Ugrian people headed West from the Urals, and became the Hungarians. Another big bunch headed North until they hit the Gulf of Finland. Some stayed South of where St. Petersburg now stands and became Estonians (Virolainen). The remainder headed further North, met the Lapps and became Finns (Suomalainen) or Karelians.

    Other small Finno-Ugrian groups are scattered throughout the North West of the former Soviet Union.

    The reason many Finns are blond is most commonly because of Swedish ancestry. In the South of Finland there is a large Swedish speaking minority - the result of Swedish colonialism and the dominance of Swedish as the ruling elite's language of choice in the eighteenth century.

    As for language, Finnish was codified in the mid-nineteenth century. 'Official' Finnish is the dialect spoken in the South West of the country. The further East you go the more archaic the dialect - especially in Karelia. Other dialects like Ingrian are pretty much extinct, while in the far North, Lapp is a sadly disappearing language.


    Chris Wareham
  • by LizardKing (5245) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @09:27PM (#1666317)
    The finnish geeks have an edge on you guys when it comes to getting jobs here, because you'll never be able to learn our language

    I spent four years studying Finnish and Finnish history, and have to admit that for many Western Europeans it is a weird language to learn. The grammar is quite strict though, so once you know the rules it isn't too bad.

    Personally, I love Finland as a country - sparsely populated, and covered in forests and lakes. The people are friendly to foriegners (except on occasion to the Russians), but really like their drink.

    I haven't been to Finland for four years now, but used to go regularily. Hopefully I can go back some point next year for a couple of weeks.


    Chris Wareham
  • Actually, just like the Dutch, the all sport very nice golden brown all over tans. It's time you did some travelling.
  • The Helsinki Arena [arenanet.fi] site is on-line, although you'll need JavaScript turned on to access some of the content. It also seems to crash Netscape 4.6. The video stream from the Speakers Arena [arenanet.fi] is also there.
  • I can't think of any system that isn't potentially trackable. Net pizza'ing may be very helpful for these statistics, but it's just as bad as ordering by phone, and all those pizzas have made my buttocks too big to get it out of the chair to go collect my pizza. And anyway, what if they do get my details? They know I eat pizza, so they give me pizza.. If I get cheaper/free pizza, I win..
  • What do they have on the women in Dublin? :-P
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A few years ago Finland's economy was in the dumps . Their govn't had the foresight to invest heavily in tech. Now they're reaping the benefits. After a brief business trip to Helsinki I realized a couple things: 1. everybody and their dog has a cell phone which is in use constantly 2. they have a strange fascination with wearing those nylon/polyester running or warm-up suits I think 1 & 2 proportionaly correlated somehow...
  • by hohakkar (56870) on Wednesday September 22, 1999 @12:52PM (#1666328) Homepage
    Seriously, I wonder how wide the gap needs to get before domestic geeks start crowding on rafts and stowing away on planes to get to a more enlightened country--like, say, Finland?

    The finnish geeks have an edge on you guys when it comes to getting jobs here, because you'll never be able to learn our language :-)

    Actually I don't think we have anything the americans don't have here in Finland. Maybe more services are offered for use via mobile telephone (I think Sonera is the first GSM operator in the world to be offering WAP-services), but as far as I understand you can conduct your daily business (shopping, monetary transactions etc.) on net over there as well. The big difference is, that technology being used by geeks elsewhere has become more commonplace and available to everybody here. This is largely due to the big banks, telephone companies and of course the government investing heavily into the Internet. Another big factor is the scandinavian "equality - no big pay differences - large parts of the population doing fairly well but nobody gets fabulously rich" system. When technology becomes available, it is automatically available to large parts of the populace after the phase of astronomical prices has been passed.

    And the arctic circle is pretty bad. I live in southern Finland, and half the year I wish I was living in California again. Than again we do have some warm currents in the oceans around these parts, so Helsinki isn't actually much worse than central Europe when it comes down to numbers. But it gets pretty dark in the winter this far north, and that makes the weather seem a lot worse.
  • I'm happy to see that the gee-whiz factor is alive and well on the other side of the Atlantic. It warms the cockles of the heart.

    I'm reminded of the children's encyclopedia set I grew up with as a child in the 70's. It was an old Funk & Wagnall set replete with stories and photos from the 50's and 60's of kids flying to school with backpack jets, hovercraft cars bypassing clogged, land-based traffic, "interactive" tv's where you could order pizzas (sound familiar ?) and shop, videophones to see your loved ones with bed face, and a whole host of other goodies that were going to change everyone's lives immeasurably.

    As each new technological innovation is introduced, we are inevitably told how our lives will benefit and change "in ways we haven't thought of yet". We find ourselves being led by the technological pied pipers to the so-called promised land. Once the initial euphoria dies down, however, people tend to do what people know how to do best -- get practical.

    Did anyone seriously think putting a hydrogen fuel cell on little Johnnie's back just to get him to school 5 minutes earlier was really a good idea? Did we really need to issue everyone a pilot's license just so they could get to work? Probably not. But hey, it was fun to imagine, wasn't it!

    The same thing will happen with this connectivity, internet, and virtual euphoria. People will extract what they really need and put it to use. The rest will become, well, virtual candy. Wiring the populace and creating virtual cities may or may not happen as envisioned in the article. Some of the proposed applications may come to fruition. Some may not (Fire dept phoning apt to wake people from burning building ?)

    Hopefully, one of the side effects of the gee whiz euphoria regarding connectivity and the internet will be applications that will actually help people.

  • > Americans
    should realize that they are not the first and foremost in every
    single aspect of civilization. Far from it...

    I got impression that Americans are the first overall though. I can't help but think that in part many of other high developed country's ventures in hi tech are made 'to show them yanks'. US is nice cause they just do whatever they like. US made one big mistake though: its result is that almost every other nation hates their guts. If things go wrong for US.. everybody else will laugh.

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